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Victoria dentist inspired by veteran advocate

Victoria Advocate - 3/14/2017

March 14--It's been a while since Paul Hunt, 66, has eaten a good medium-rare steak.

"I'm trying to remember when's the last time I had a good steak," he said. "It's been a few years."

Until recently, the Marine Corps veteran was homeless for about five years in Victoria.

But, the reason why he hasn't enjoyed eating is he now has only two teeth left.

Hunt is one of at least two veterans selected to receive dental care from Dr. Lisa Heinrich-Null's clinic.

"Y'all are gonna have fun if you're gonna work on me," he said, smiling, during his initial dental appointment. "It'll be a lot of work."

The longtime Victoria dentist is up for the challenge. Within a few weeks, Heinrich-Null will provide Hunt with a set of dentures.

Heinrich-Null said she was inspired to seek out veterans to help after attending the funeral of Jarrett Parker.

She and her staff wanted to honor Parker's lifelong work of helping military veterans in Texas, especially those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Parker, 33, died of a gunshot wound Feb. 7 at his home in Edna.

His stepmother, Annette Parker, is a dental hygienist at the clinic.

She said it was heartwarming to meet the veterans who were going to benefit from her employer's kindness.

She said they just recently learned how much her stepson did for the veteran community.

She and her husband, Don Parker, plan to continue Jarrett Parker's mission of helping veterans.

"It's inspired my husband to really want to do more," she said. "We didn't realize what all Jarrett was doing until this."

Jarrett Parker served in the Air Force and was an active volunteer before his death.

Heinrich-Null said she, like many other local dentists, work with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide needed dental care for military veterans.

Still, there are challenges for veterans, especially those who are homeless, to access dental services.

"The norm is that they can't eat well, and they lack nutrition usually," she said. "They don't want to smile. And, if their gums are diseased, their whole body hurts."

She hopes to continue to honor Parker by helping veterans with few resources.

"They have given so much to our country," she said.

Rudy Luna, 62, will receive partial dentures and needed repairs courtesy of the clinic.

"I think it's awesome. It's a blessing for us veterans who are down on our luck," he said.

Like Hunt, Luna served in the Marines during the Vietnam War.

Luna has been getting help from the Crossroads Area Veteran Center and said he is grateful for the program.

Sarah Holland, a peer specialist at the center, helped find both veterans in need of dental care.

"It's going to be life-changing for both of them," she said.


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